Some men confuse sexual interest with consent, finds new study

Even a woman’s verbal refusal was sometimes not enough

Sarah Young
Tuesday 28 November 2017 11:37 GMT

A new study has found that some men confuse sexual interest with consent and assume that previously having sex with a woman implies her consent ever after.

At a time when sexual harassment and assault is dominating the media, a team of researchers set out to determine the prevalence of sexual misconduct in universities as instances of this type of violence remain higher than any other crime amongst college students.

Published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the faculty at Binghamton University and Rush University in Chicago, sought to identify a host of situational and dispositional factors that may predict college men's likelihood to engage in sexual misconduct.

Comprising of 145 heterosexual male students attending a large university in the southeastern region of the United States, the participants response to a series of hypothetical sexual scenarios was gauged.

Here, researchers found that most men tended to confuse sexual interest with consent to sex and that their perceptions of consent were largely dependent on “the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intentions.”

“We found that the way in which the woman communicated her sexual intentions, that is verbal refusal versus passive responding, had the largest effect of men’s perceptions,” researcher Richard Mattson said in a statement from Binghamton University.

“Our findings also suggest that some men were earnestly attempting to determine whether consent was given, but were nevertheless relying on questionable sexual scripts to disambiguate the situation.”

What's more, in cases where the men had a sexual history with someone, even the woman’s verbal refusal was often not enough to change their belief that she had given consent to future intimacy.

Mattson also goes on to explain that some aspects of the college experience, such as decreased parental supervision and the consumption of alcohol, undeniably influence students and underscore an increased risk of involvement in sexually coercive situations.

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